Offbeat

AUGUST 27, 2014

Bolt versus Yuvraj

ESPNcricinfo staff

Usain Bolt isn't a stranger to cricket. He played during his early years, did a number on Chris Gayle's stumps in a charity match in Jamaica in 2009 and almost turned out for Melbourne Stars during the 2012 Big Bash League. And he will be at it again when he squares up with Yuvraj Singh during an event at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium, on September 2.

Though Bolt's abilities on the open track are considerably more impressive, Gayle had a word of warning about Bolt the cricketer: "In a charity game he [Bolt] played against me, he almost knocked my head off with a good, competitive bouncer."

Bolt's trademark celebrations have been copied by cricketers, but here is a chance for catching the original one on a cricket field. Look out, Yuvraj.

JUNE 19, 2014

New Zealand cricket

Chris Martin, the grocer

Chris Martin, the retired New Zealand pacer, has found his new calling. He is going into the grocery store business. He, with his family, moved from Christchurch to Palmerston North to take charge of a Four Square - a mini-market chain in New Zealand, which offers groceries, fresh produce, meat and drinks, all with "a friendly smile". Clients who visit this particular outlet, will probably be offered that smile by Martin himself, as he plans to be quite hands-on.

"[Wife] Jane and I were quite keen to have our own business," Martin said, according to stuff.co.nz. "We wanted to have something we could own and operate and have ourselves.

"We also have a passion for food, which I suppose translated well to a Four Square. I might get a few aspiring cricketers coming and buying drinks."

Cricket, Martin said, left him well prepared to go into business. "I think with the cricket side of things you have to get out of bed every day and kind of do it all for yourself ... I think owning your own business is similar."

JUNE 06, 2014

Offbeat

Green gloves, ducks and bats taped to ceilings

While reviewing Chris Waters' book 10 for 10 - on Hedley Verity's record - for the Guardian, Andy Bull recounts some entertaining stories of superstitions that cricketers have followed.

Others take things further still. Duck seemed so portentous to Steve James that he refused to eat it, and wouldn't even let his children have a rubber one to play with in the bath, until after his career was over. He sympathised with Neil McKenzie, who developed an obsession that meant he would go out to bat only when all the toilet seats were down, and even went through a phase of taping his bat to the ceiling because his team-mates had once done that to him on a day when he scored a century.

JUNE 06, 2014

West Indies cricket

Serving the community with Chris Gayle's Big Six Club

Chris Gayle is looking to give something back to Jamaican society, through cricket. He has opened an academy in Kingston, at the Lucas Cricket Club, for "underprivileged youngsters". The academy, which also has a branch in England, will have two programmes: the Chris Gayle Academy team, and the Chris Gayle Big Six Club.

The academy team will cater to 16 young players on an annual basis, aged between 16 and 21, and - the plan is - give them the opportunity to play other Jamaican teams and touring youth squads. The Big Six Club is a 12-week programme targeted at kids from troubled communities (think low school-attendance rates, high crime levels, and rising drugs abuse).

An emotional Gayle, at the academy's launch, remembered how he was attracted to the game when he was a kid. "Being here brings back memories of me as a youngster, who used to jump the walls of Lucas from my house across the street, just wanting the opportunity to learn the sport of cricket and become a better person," Gayle said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. "To have come from that far, and being here now, is quite moving, and the hope is that this academy will similarly open doors and opportunities for youngsters."

MAY 19, 2014

Pakistan's Game of Thrones characters

Ahmer Naqvi: Aren't there resemblances between the hit fantasy show and an unpredictable, thrilling cricket team?
MAY 16, 2014

English cricket

The cricket ball goes to space … almost

The ECB has sent the cricket ball "where no cricket ball has gone before": to the "edge of space".

A white ball was sent up from Edgbaston, Birmingham, strapped to a helium balloon, to an altitude of 110,000 feet (or three times the height at which commercial aircraft fly), where it is said to have experienced temperatures of -54C and reached speeds of 500mph while freefalling back to earth. It landed in Newbury, Hertfordshire, in "near-perfect condition".

The stunt was organised as part of the launch of the ECB's revamped T20 competition, the NatWest t20 Blast, and required the input of "a team of aeronautical engineers", according to the ECB site. For the video of the ball on its way to the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere, click here.

MAY 01, 2014

Indian cricket

Drama, dance and Sreesanth

One of Sreesanth's trademarks, both on and off the field, is theatricality. Now, with cricket off the agenda for him, he seems to have turned his attention more firmly to acting, dancing and song-writing. He is set to score music for Anbulla Azagae a Tamil-Telugu film his brother Dipu Shanthan is producing, as well as play a cameo role in it. He is also likely to take part in dance-based television show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, next season.

"Sree will be composing all songs in the movie, a love story laced with suspense and drama," Dipu Shanthan told Hindustan Times. "The main cast of the film hasn't been finalised yet, but it will have the best in the industry." Sreesanth, who was banned last year after being found guilty of being involved in the IPL spot-fixing scandal, has already produced and directed two music albums.

APRIL 11, 2014

England cricket

When Kent threatened to end cricket

Justin Parkinson, political reporter for the BBC, takes us through the history of cricket ball manufacture in the UK. From April 1914 when workers from west Kent threatened to hold the cricket season hostage by not producing any more balls until they were reimbursed appropriately. At the time they had been supplying the best quality for over 150 years, but as the 20th century wore on the monopoly went into steady decline.

Kent's ball manufacturers employed several hundred people at the time, many of whom complained of being treated like "sweated labour".

"The power of the union may be largely a thing of the past, and cricket ball manufacture, along with pretty much everything else in cricket, has now largely moved to the subcontinent", says Matt Thacker, managing editor of The Nightwatchman, the Wisden Cricket Quarterly magazine."But it's great to be reminded occasionally how deeply ingrained into the fabric of English life cricket was.

APRIL 09, 2014

Cuban cricket

Bat up, Cuba

T20 cricket has been dubbed the best vehicle to sell the game across the far reaches of the globe. But what happens when the bug bites but the players do not have the requisite equipment to mimic Chris Gayle's monstrous hits or Lasith Malinga's searing toe-crushers? A town in Cuba faced this conundrum but Scyld Berry's column, in the Telegraph, explains how a charity has taken responsibility of supplying the locals all they need to fuel their passion for cricket.

To see the impact of the arrival of four quality bats in Guantanamo was heart-warming, even for a bowler, and of the first cricket helmet the players had ever seen. A useful addition, because the first ball of our middle-practice - just short of a length - went three feet over the batsman's head.

APRIL 01, 2014

Indian cricket

An app by a cricketer, for cricketers

The list of engineers in Indian cricket is a long and illustrious one and while Mumbai pacer Saurabh Netravalkar is a rank newbie on that list, he has already combined his academic focus with his knowledge of the game to develop a cricket-based application.

Called CricDeCode, the application is designed to help cricketers analyse their game and can be used across platforms. The inspiration behind it was simple enough. "I didn't want the hours of engineering studies to go to waste," Netravalkar told Hindustan Times. "That's how I thought of developing the mobile app."

In the 2010 Under-19 World Cup, Netravalkar was the leading wicket-taker for India after which the fast bowler decided to split his focus on engineering and cricket. He graduated with a degree in computer science last year and also made his first-class and List A debuts for Mumbai earlier in this season.

MARCH 25, 2014

Baggy-green baby

Philip Brown: What do you get when you combine a legendary Test cricketer's cap, a two-year-old and some pink zinc cream?
FEBRUARY 21, 2014

What's the best job in cricket?

Nicholas Hogg: Streaker guard? Grass cutter? Bat maker? Or a sushi-eating cricket missionary?
FEBRUARY 16, 2014

Under-19 World Cup 2014

Sarfaraz's unique T-shirt tribute to father

One of the most influential figures in the life of Sarfaraz Khan - India's 16-year-old batting allrounder - is his father and coach, Naushad. One of the many things Naushad, a hard taskmaster, did to support and push his son's cricketing ambition was to install a synthetic pitch near their house to ensure Sarfaraz had access to practice facilities at all times. Sarfaraz who hit a half-century, took four catches and a wicket in India's first game of the Under-19 World Cup against Pakistan, found a unique way to thank his father at the tournament.

At the media conference after the game against Pakistan, Sarfaraz was asked why his shirt number had changed from 86 to 97. As it turned out, it was no clerical error but one done purposely, as a mark of respect to his father. In Hindi, '9' and '7' are nau and saat respectively. Said together, it rhymes with 'Naushad'.

JANUARY 24, 2014

The beauty of the maghrib chase

Ahmer Naqvi: The Sharjah chase took you back to the days of playing street cricket and wanting to complete a game before the sun set
JANUARY 17, 2014

Can you Wade through a Marsh?

Matt Cleary: And other life-altering questions from various parts of the cricketing world
JANUARY 16, 2014

Pakistan news

Qamar Ahmed's special quadruple

Sunil Gavaskar's 10,000th run, Richard Hadlee's 400th wicket, Anil Kumble's cleansweep, cricket's 1000th Test in 1984 and its 2000th in 2011 - Qamar Ahmed; has seen them all. The Sharjah Test; between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is his 400th as a reporter, and he has been present at 19% of all Tests played to date.

His favourite is Gavaskar's last innings, a 96 in a losing cause against Pakistan in Bangalore, memorable because even spinners had the ball rearing chest-high on a poor pitch. Michael Holding's furious 14-wicket haul at The Oval in 1976 is Qamar's bowling equivalent.

A first-class left-arm spinner in Pakistan in his youth, Qamar was based out of the UK for most of his reporting career. In addition to having written extensively in English, Urdu and Hindi, he has also been a broadcaster for Test Match Special, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Television New Zealand, among others.

The press in Sharjah missed the chance to perform a guard of honour with their laptops, but the PCB and Pakistan team presented Qamar with mementoes and two signed Test shirts, wishing him many more matches in the press box. It is a sentiment Qamar agrees with heartily - he said: "I am not retiring as long as I'm on my feet."

JANUARY 12, 2014

I beat Kostya Tszyu

Matt Cleary: Or what it takes to defeat a champion boxer at cricket and win $20
JANUARY 09, 2014

Murali runs into the Williams sisters

Big-hitting Melbourne Renegades captain Aaron Finch has indicated he wouldn't mind dropping down the order for his team. Why? Because he has come across a couple of mightier hitters of the cricket ball than himself. Who? The Williams sisters.

USA tennis stars Serena and Venus, in Melbourne for the Australian Open, tried their hand at batting on Thursday, and smashed Finch and a certain Muttiah Muralitharan all over the rooftop on which they were playing. "They're more than welcome to bat up the order, I might have to slide down a few spots," Finch joked after the Renegades event.

Yes, a heavy bat might have had something to do with all the carnage. "I just hit it as hard as I could. But the bat was heavy," Venus laughed. "We don't play cricket, it's not our sport, but we were excited to come out and try." A good workout in the lead up to their tennis commitments then? "Think so. Feeling loose," Serena said. "We had a few nerves but we got through it."

DECEMBER 22, 2013

India cricket

Yusuf Pathan's green thumb

Sanjeev Samyal of the Hindustan Times meets Yusuf Pathan at his Baroda home and discovers a Gerald Durrell-like alter ego to the allrounder

For Yusuf, birds are not just things of beauty but their continuous activity raises the energy level all around. "You never feel lonely in their company. We have an African gray parrot which mimics everyone."

Once he almost bought a camel.

"I was coming from Ajwa when I encountered a tribe with camels and their young ones. I decided to buy one from there but the friend accompanying me, informed my mother who refused permission, saying it's a big animal and it would be difficult to take care of," he says.

NOVEMBER 28, 2013

Cricket, under the world

No, we're not talking about the Ashes. This particular match took place 'down under' in a more literal sense. Down under a mountain, in a slate mine, in Lake District - a mountainous region in northwest England. Two village teams, Threlkeld and Caldbeck, were involved in the game, widely believed to be the first underground cricket match.

Honister Slate Mine hosted the game, a fundraiser, amid a network of underground tunnels inside the mountain Fleetwith Pike. And if everyone on hand had to wear hard hats it was because of the 2000ft of rock and slate above their heads, not because a flurry of sixes were expected - there were no designated boundaries in the match and the batsmen had to run all their runs, resulting in a middling target of 28 from six overs for Caldbeck to chase. The team made light work of it, winning with 10 balls to spare.

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